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Arriba! - Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the Cassatt Quartet
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 10/15/2010 at Symphony Space.

The Cassatt Quartet performs fiery, rich, music that is uniquely Mexican as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence. Featuring colorful, rhythmic works by contemporary Mexican composers, including Altar de muertos by Gabriela Ortiz, and the premiere of Cartas de Frida, by Samuel Zyman.




Jose Francisco Cortes Alvarez, Rafagas (Gusts)New York Premiere


Samuel Zyman, String QuartetNew York Premiere
1] Allegro Molto
2] Adagio Molto Espressivo
3] Presto


Gabriella Ortiz, Altar de Muertos
1] Ofrenda
2] Mictlan (The place of the dead)
3] Danza Macabra
4] La Calaca

+ About the Artists

The New York City based Cassatt String Quartet has performed throughout North America, Europe, and the Far East, with prestigious appearances at New York’s Alice Tully Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Music Theater, the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and Maeda Hall in Tokyo. 

The Cassatt has recently appeared at the American Academy in Rome, Cornell and Syracuse Universities and offered mini-residencies at the Centro National de las Artes in Mexico City, the University of Texas at Austin and Vassar College.

They have held residencies at Princeton, Yale and Syracuse University among others. Named three times by The New Yorker magazine’s Best Of The Year CD Selection, they have recorded for the Koch, Naxos, New World, Albany and CRI Labels.

+ About the Music

Ráfagas (Gusts)
For string quartet

A gust is a strong and abrupt rush of wind. That is what this piece is all about: Sudden bursts and gestures with rhythms that go faster and slower as the wind would do, leading into sudden outbursts of all kinds of emotions. 

Ráfagas was composed in June 2006 after a workshop with Mario Davidowsky, was premiered at the Aspen Music Festival and School and revised in 2009 for the Cassatt String Quartet.

Samuel Zyman - String Quartet

I wrote my string quartet in 2002 on commission from my dear friend Lola Reid, whose aim was for the work to be a very special birthday present for her husband, my dear friend Mark Furth.

The first movement, Allegro molto, starts with a restless and rushing theme endowed with great rhythmic vigor in the unusual meter of 5/16. This movement, the most Mexican-sounding of the work, maintains a high level of energy and tension, albeit with some oscillations, until it reaches a section marked Tranquillo. Here, the opening theme reappears, transformed into a slow and melancholic version of itself. Tension returns little by little until the recapitulation, which, of course, reproduces the opening of the work, albeit with some differences. The second movement is a lament, an elegy, practically a prayer. Preserving this spirit, the music becomes more and more agitated and restless until it reaches several pizzicato segments that precede the climax of the movement, at which a fortissimo canon of the principal prayer theme appears. Finally, echoes of the opening are heard, which lead to the conclusion of the movement.

The third movement, Presto, begins as a breathless race that, far from relaxing, culminates in an energetic fugue, whose subject bursts in the cello and then passes to every one of the other three instruments. The fugue develops and continues its vigorous ascent until a climax is reached, followed immediately by a viola cadenza that is, curiously, built on the 5/16 theme of the opening of the first movement. After the cadenza, the rest of the quartet members reappear, giving rise to the singing, one more time, of the second movement prayer, first by the viola and then by the cello, followed by the recapitulation, which marches inexorably toward the end of the work.

The string quartet was premiered by the Ciompi Quartet at Duke University in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in March 2003. 

Altar de Muertos

First part: Ofrenda (offering)

When we die,
We really never do,
because we live, we resurrect,
we continue living, then we awaken,
This fills us with joy.

Second part: Mictlan (place of the dead)

Where shall I go?
Where shall I go?
The road of the Double God.
Is by fortune your house the place of dead?
Is it, by chance, the interior of heaven?
Or is earth the only place for those who are killed or sacrificed?

Third part: Danza Macabra (danse macabre)

Human life is like a shadow.

Fourth part: La Calaca (the skeleton)

Were shall the dead go?
Who knows where they shall go!

Mexicans today are still tormented with the thought of dying, just as all humanity from the beginning of the world; but, unlike other peoples, Mexicans face death; they make fun of it and play with it to try to forget about it.

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